Josh Pultorak | Research
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My research was recently featured in National Geographic! Check it out:

To view publications, visit my ResearchGate page.

To learn more about the biology of the California mouse, visit the lab website of my doctoral research advisor, Cathy Marler.

Doctoral Dissertation: Ultrasonic Communication: a Tool to Understand Mate Fidelity and Pair Bonding in a Monogamous Mouse, and Applications.

Research over the last several decades indicates that species exhibiting “genetic” monogamy are exceedingly rare in nature, despite numerous examples of “socially” monogamous animals. Unlike most rodents, the California mouse is strictly monogamous in the wild, making it an excellent model to study mechanisms of mammalian mate fidelity. My PhD research examined how hormones and the social environment interact to produce adaptive behavior in this species, including pair bond regulation and mate fidelity, with a special focus on ultrasonic communication. Given the widespread use of rodents in both basic and clinical research, measures incorporating ultrasonic vocalizations are becoming increasingly common for a variety of uses. One such use is to assess functional communication deficits in rodent models of communicative disorders. My secondary research focus as a graduate student sought to understand the neuropathology of Parkinson’s disease as it relates to speech deficits in an effort to devise effective new treatments. Projects involved assessment of vocal signal abnormalities in a PINK1 gene knock-out rat model of Parkinson’s disease and assessment of possible communicative impacts manifest from these vocal deficits via ultrasonic playback. More recently, my research interests have expanded to include the positive impacts of active learning pedagogy in undergraduate science education.


Published research articles:

Walck-Shannon, E., Batzli, J., Pultorak, J., and Boehmer, H. J. 2019. Biological variation as a threshold concept: Can we measure threshold crossing? CBE Life Sciences. 18(3).

Pultorak, J.D., Alger, S.J., Loria, S.O., Johnson, A.M., and Marler, C.A. 2018. Changes in behavior and ultrasonic vocalizations during pair bonding and in response to an infidelity challenge in monogamous California mice. Front. Ecol. Evol. 6:125.

Pultorak, J.D., Matusinec, K., Miller, Z.K., and Marler, C.A. 2017. Ultrasonic vocalization production and playback predicts intra-pair and extra-pair social behavior in a monogamous mouse. Animal Behaviour. 125, 13-23.

Pultorak, J.D., Kelm-Nelson, C.A., Blue, K.V., Holt, L.R., Ciucci, M.R., and Johnson, A.M. 2016. Decreased approach behavior and nucleus accumbens immediate early gene expression in response to Parkinsonian ultrasonic vocalizations in rats. Social Neuroscience. 11(4), 365-379.

Pultorak, J.D., Fuxjager M.J., Kalcounis-Rueppell M.C., and Marler, C.A. 2015. Male fidelity expressed through rapid testosterone suppression of ultrasonic vocalizations to novel females in the monogamous California mouse. Hormones and Behavior. 70, 47-56.

Grant, L.M., Kelm-Nelson, C.A., Hilby, B.L., Blue, K.V., Rajamanickam, E.S., Pultorak, J.D., Fleming, S.M., and Ciucci, M.R. 2015. Evidence for early and progressive ultrasonic vocalization and oromotor deficits in a PINK1 gene knockout rat model of Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Neuroscience Research. 93, 1713-1727.

Costello A.K., Pultorak J.D., and Meikle D.B. 2009. Do male house mice (Mus musculus) discriminate between females that differ in nutritional status? Behavioural Processes. 82, 119-125.


Published book chapters:

Kalcounis-Rueppell, Pultorak, Marler, Ultrasonic Vocalizations of Mice in the Genus Peromyscus. In: Stefan M. Brudzynski, editor: Handbook of Ultrasonic Vocalization, Vol 25, HBBN, UK: Academic Press, 2018, pp. 227-235.

Kalcounis-Rueppell, Pultorak, Blake, Marler, Ultrasonic Vocalizations of Young Mice in the Genus Peromyscus. In: Stefan M. Brudzynski, editor: Handbook of Ultrasonic Vocalization, Vol 25, HBBN, UK: Academic Press, 2018, pp. 149-156.